Mark Clairmont |

PARRY SOUND — News this afternoon that Parry Sound will be locked down a further two weeks isn’t sitting well with many residents and businesses here.

Even as the health minister said the local health system may not be able to cope with variants already within the health unit there.

They say they’re in the same boat as Muskoka, tied to another region with more COVID cases.

Parry Sound and North Bay are part of the same health unit, where there is at least one case of the UK variant.

However there were only 3 cases reported for Thursday and 2 Wednesday.

Their accumulated total is 238.

Meanwhile, Simcoe-Muskoka reported 32 cases today (Public Health Ontario said 23).

Health Minister Christine Elliott said today that North Bay Parry Sound District has seen its case rate increase by 11.5 per cent to 14.6 cases per 100,000 people.

And “variants of concern also remain a serious risk to community transmission and health system capacity,” she said in a release today.

Norah Fountain, manager of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce told yesterday that she’s heard from business owners in the Parry Sound area who concerned that their town is being affected needlessly by harsher restrictions compared to neighbouring communities around it.

Stay-at-home orders will continue for the North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit after Minister of Health Christine Elliott said today that case counts in the region are too high to re-open along with most of the rest of the province. She said “variants of concern also remain a serious risk to community transmission and health system capacity,”

This as the province said this afternoon that in consultation with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams and the local medical officers of health, the government is maintaining the shutdown, the Stay-at-Home order and all existing public health and workplace safety measures for Toronto and Peel Public Health Regions and the North Bay-Parry Sound District.

The York Public Health Region will transition out of the shut-down and into the revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open.

Elliott said: “Our government’s number one priority is the safety of all individuals and families, and that’s why we are taking a gradual, cautious approach to returning regions to the Framework.”

“These are difficult but necessary decisions, in order to protect against COVID-19 variants and maintain the progress we have all made together. Until vaccines are widely available, we continue to urge all Ontarians to follow public health advice and measures, and stay home, stay safe, and save lives.”

In the Toronto and Peel Public Health Regions, and the North Bay-Parry Sound District, the shutdown measures and the Stay-at-Home order will continue to apply until at least Monday, March 8, based on key public health indicators and following consultation with the local medical officers of health.

While the Peel and Toronto regions have seen a reduction in COVID-19 transmission from the period of Feb. 8 to 17, Elliott says rates remain too high in the regions, with case rates of 83.4 cases per 100,000 people for Peel and 67.9 cases per 100,000 people for Toronto, both she says well above the provincial average.

And based on a general improvement in trends of key indicators, York Region Public Health will be moving back to the Framework at the Red-Control level and will no longer be subject to the Stay-at-Home order.

In addition, Lambton Public Health will be moving from the Orange-Restrict level to the Red-Control level as a result worsening public health trends in the region over the past week. These changes will come into effect on Monday, February 22, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.

After returning to the Framework, public health regions are required to stay in their level for at least two weeks. The government will then assess the impact of public health and workplace safety measures to determine if the region should stay where it is or be moved to a different level.

Public health regions may be moved to a higher level within the two-week window, if necessary, based on the set indicators and thresholds outlined in the Framework.

In addition, Ontario has introduced an “emergency brake” to allow the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, to immediately advise moving a region into Grey-Lockdown to interrupt transmission.

“While the health indicators have improved enough to allow us to return an additional region to the Framework, we are not yet at the point where we can safely transition back the remainder of the province,” said Williams.

“Everyone is strongly advised to continue staying at home, avoid social gatherings, only travel between regions for essential purposes, and limit close contacts to your household or those you live with regardless of which level of the Framework you are in.”

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